It took collective talent and determination to take a self sufficient dream and turn it into a reality 14 years later. March 19th 2010 will go down as a landmark day for bioclimatic houses, the worlds first village, containing 25 CO2 free and totally self sufficient houses was inaugurated at ITER in Granadilla, Tenerife. The original competition was thrown open to all architects worldwide and attracted 397 entries, this was later whittled down to 25 and the long process of drawing up plans and gradually blending the houses together on one sight began.
Key players in the project spoke at the inauguration about their part in the development and their hopes for the future. Ricardo Melchior was the driving force that started the ball rolling through the Tenerife College of Architects and then the International College in Paris. The Tenerife President has a strong background in engineering, he studied in Spain and Germany and holds an honorary doctorate in science from Ireland University and the National Order of Merit from the French government.
â€œI always felt we could use architecture to create environmentally friendly living conditionsâ€ the President explained. â€œItâ€™s not enough to just position buildings facing south or north, we have to look into all aspects that can help and comply with international guidelines like the Kioto agreement. In five years time 90% of the worlds population will live in cities, hopefully what we have achieved here at ITER will become a template for those that follow.â€
Introducing Dr Wolfgang Palz, chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy, Melchior commented that he had been greatly influenced by one of the Doctors early books 25 years ago. The German has a PHD in physics and was in charge of the European Unionâ€™s research and development of renewable energy for 20 years. â€œ ITER has a proven record in new technology, the largest producing photovoltaic plant in the world is here. Solar energy is a clean affordable way forward, France tried a nuclear breeder with disastrous results but here they only use totally solar power breeders.â€
Manuel Cendagorta-Galarza, director of ITER added his views. â€œDomestic consumption now makes up 50% of all power demands so we must look at local solution that we can use on a global scale. Here at the bioclimatic village we have blended different ideas together in the 25 houses, we have to ensure we put no limits on the possibilities. The use of recycled and specialist materials can make a big difference, since the project began I have included some of these materials in my own home. In the years ahead we will carefully monitor these bioclimatic houses using sensors to evaluate humidity, temperature and wind, the lessons we learn will be shared openly through the world to help make a difference.â€
One of the architects present Madelaine Fava from New York, led a team based in France and explained the process that led to her construction El Alisio. â€œI read the competition proposal 15 years ago in architectural journals and it fired my imagination. There wasnâ€™t a big interest in ground breaking design in France so it seemed like a good opportunity.
After making contact with the organisers and getting the specifications I worked hard with my team to produce three sample panels to present. After that we had a mechanical engineer look at our plans to check them structurally and make sure that they were possible to turn into reality. The design work was carried out by the Daniel Faure company Adret, that means south facing slopeâ€.
El Alisio combines three units representing water, sun and air. Although the building is complete it is not yet furnished and was not open for visitors at the inauguration. For Madelaine this trip was her first chance to see her work in its complete form. â€œ Iâ€™m pleased with how it has turned out but wish that maybe I had been able to be more hands on and closer in the development stages. My work takes me to Tahiti and the Caribbean as well as teaching in Paris so it is a question of balancing all if these demands. Iâ€™m very impressed by the tenacity and dedication of the team behind the bioclimatic village, it has influenced me a lot and now I find myself taking these considerations into the architectural projects I work onâ€.